The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research has, again, demonstrated its commitment to the research and development of home-grown medicines, with the recent launch of the NIMR Foundation. According to the Institute, the private, not-for-profit organisation was established to support government’s efforts in funding of translational healthcare research in Nigeria.
Explaining the rationale for setting up the Foundation as a separate arm of the NIMR, Chairman, Incorporated Trustees for NIMR, and Minister of Works, Housing and Environment, Barrister Babatunde Fashola (SAN), stated at a media parley that the Foundation “will do everything that NIMR is currently doing and should be doing, given the broad mandate imposed by the law establishing the Institute back in 1977 from a service perspective. The differentiating factor is that the Foundation will utilise resources mobilised from mostly the private sector, rather than depend on funding from government as NIMR does.”
Fashola further said: “NIMR Foundation has identified a mix of short, medium and long-term revenue streams in mobilising predictable and sufficient funding for its activities. These are: Donations (in cash or kind) from individuals, corporate bodies, and organisations in Nigeria and worldwide; endowments from philanthropists and other well-meaning individuals; grants from individuals, trusts, initiatives, local and international governments, private and non-governmental organisations within and outside Nigeria; and income from commercial ventures and investments.”
This is a pragmatic and progressive move from the prestigious Institute, considering the criticality of funding to meaningful research efforts, as well as the bureaucratic bottlenecks that have often bedevilled research funding by the Nigerian government over the years. And in what appears to be an auspicious start for the Foundation, during its official inauguration, financial pledges to the tune of billions of naira were made by distinguished Nigerians, including the 14th Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Muhammadu Sanusi II)
Sanusi had, at the event, single-handedly pledged to rally support by mobilising Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike to raise the seed fund of N10 billion for the Foundation, towards the development of the nation’s healthcare system through cutting-edge research and technological innovations. Bearing in mind the spontaneity with which communicable diseases spring up and pose medical emergencies to the health industry, NIMR’s continued efforts towards bolstering the availability of quality home-grown medicines, coupled with its penchant for research-based medical innovations, are highly commendable and reflect its willingness to reposition the country’s healthcare system for increased efficiency.
It is worth noting that, despite several health interventions by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Africa’s largest economy still faces some of the worst public health challenges, including the highest global burden of malaria, a high burden of HIV and tuberculosis, emerging infections such as Lassa Fever, recurrent outbreaks of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever, as well as increasing levels of non-communicable diseases. These are all pointers to the fact that government’s provision for healthcare are grossly inadequate for the needs of the populace, which calls for private investors’ participation in the sector.
The NIMR Foundation is thus a welcome development that should be supported by all well-meaning Nigerians. If well managed, funds accruing to it would be channelled into the provision of research grants, training and other sundry obligations, as planned by its Board. We call on other institutions, agencies and organisations to take a cue from the NIMR and develop significant projects that will have transformational impacts on the health sector and the nation, in general.
It must also be emphasised that the establishment of the NIMR Foundation must not be seen by the government as a substitute for its expected financial commitments towards healthcare research and development in the country. Rather, the government must see this as a wakeup call to be more sensitive to the health needs of its citizens and increase allocation to healthcare funding. Presently, the country’s health indices are, to say the least, appalling, and require immediate interventions.